Remodeling for Renters: Is It For Real?

By Bill Esler | Posted: 01/27/2014 11:38AM


Some of the strongest growth in new housing has been in the rental market. The same forces that drive new rental home construction - rising mortgage rates and weak job growth - are also spurring rental remodeling owners, and even by some tenants.

Millions are priced out of home buying. The percentage of renter households - 31% in 2004- rose to 35% in 2012, with the strongest numerical growth in renter households in the last 50 years.

As ownership rates fell, housing markets have adjusted dynamically to the increased demand for single-family rentals, with about 3 million existing homes switching from owner to rental occupancy from 2007-2011 alone.

Household formation - people moving out of their parents home when they marry or finish school - has slowed down. Historically 1.1 million households form in a year.  In the past year fewer than 400,000 new homes - either rentals or purchased houses - were created. This trend drives multi-generational living, and the remodeling of homes housing multiple families - grandparents, children, and the owners - forms a cabinetry and remodeling opportunity. Harvard studied rental unit trends.

These renters and under-housed families overall, along with the rental property owners, present a cabinetry, closet and home remodeling opportunity. 

A news story today describes renters who have spent $30,000 or more renovating apartments - adding closets, Murphy beds, kitchen cabinetry, flooring, even rewiring and plumbing improvements - to tailor their home precisely to their preferences.

New Orleans-based BRC Acoustical, which offers multi-unit commercial and hospitality remodeling services, also provides tenant-driven improvement services.

 Rental Remodels: 
IKEA hackers remake cabinets
Houzz rental remodeling
Yahoo remodeling for renters

On a lesser level, renters are looking for improvements that would be invisible to a landlord - a fold down cabinet drawer front under the kitchen sink; a closet interior redo -  changes that would be easily reversible at the conclusion of a lease.

Home interior design site describe approaches to closets  Adequate storage space is a major selling point, so it could be in your landlord's interest to heed your call for extra closet space or built-in storage features. Or you may be able to work out a compromise in which you pitch in your labor to install a closet organizing system that will stay with the apartment.

Contemporary Closet by Alexandria General Contractors Harry Braswell Inc.

Shorter-term changes: Look for modular closet systems that can be fitted to your space and removed when the time comes to leave.


About the Author

Bill Esler, Woodworking Network, WMS

Bill Esler

Bill Esler, Editorial Director, Woodworking Network Bill is responsible for overall content at Woodworking Network magazine, and related newsletters. Bill also manages event programs for Woodworking Network Live conferences at the Woodworking Machinery & Supplies Expo in Toronto and Cabinets & Closets Expo. He developing audience engagement programs using custom digital printing, live lead-generating events, custom websites, and custom digital and print content. Read Bill Esler's woodworking blogs. He can be reached at or follow him on Google+.

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